Here is a handy guide to help you and your family make the most out of each night of Chanukah as we dedicate each night to a different miracle with discussion questions for you and your loved ones.
1st Candle – Dedicate the Miracle of Light
Chanukah is all about light. While we always strive to make mitzvot beautiful with pretty Chanukiyot and candles, the flame, which looks the same on a plywood and nuts Chanukiyah or one by Yair Emanuel, is what is most important. We light Chanukah lights at the darkest time of the year and this night is the darkest night. What kind of light have you kindled in others? What light have others kindled in you?
2nd Candle – Dedicate the Miracle of Growth
Each night, we add candles from right to left, but we always light the newest candles first, from left to right. Everyone who is old enough to safely hold a candle is obligated to light, and we say Shehechiyanu, our prayer of thanksgiving for having reached this moment, whenever it is our first time lighting, not just on the first night. Remember, though, that while we are adding light, this light is only to be used for the mitzvah and not to, say, read a book. How has your light grown this year?
3rd Candle – Dedicate the Miracle of Joy
There are three commandments associated with Chanukah: Rejoice, rejoice, and rejoice! How can you make each of these 8 nights special and full of rejoicing? We recite Hallel and add some words to our liturgy. What are some special words you can use with your loved ones to add to your rejoicing? We are also supposed to light and place our Chanukah lights near the entrance of our home, and some put them in the front window. How else can you publicize the mitzvah of your rejoicing? (yes, ugly sweaters count!)
4th Candle – Dedicate the Miracle of Community
Chanukah, like nearly all other Jewish ritual, is meant to be done with others. Everyone in a house or building should come together for the lighting. And yes, you’re allowed to stop whatever work you’re doing! Speaking of coming together, if you’re in San Diego, I’d be honored if you joined me for Shabbat Chanukah to celebrate my installation and the Beth Israel community who made me who I am.
5th Candle – Dedicate the Miracle of Food
Chanukah is a Jewish holiday so of course there’s food involved! Before you get too discouraged when you think about all the oil-laden foods we eat for 8 nights, remember that food is emblematic of the miracle: by ingesting oil, we make ourselves the light. How else can you use oil to celebrate the miracle of food?
6th Candle – Dedicate the Miracle of the Dreidle
The dreidel reminds us to focus on what’s really important: the miracle was not the outcome but the fact that oil kept going. Wouldn’t it be great, as we twirl our dreidels, if we celebrated the spin, rather than the outcome? Rabbi Sarah Joselow offers this way to play a year reflective game of dreidel with four questions based on how the dreidel lands: Neis – What miracles have occurred around us? Gadol – What got bigger or greater? Hayah – What is something substantial that happened you’ve been thinking about? Sham – Looking forward, what will be different when you play dreidel again next year?
7th Candle – Dedicate the Miracle of the Story
Every time we tell the story, we continue the miracle. What makes us a people is that we share our stories. What are some stories from your family that involve miracles? What is a one of your family stories that involves light?
8th Candle – Dedicate the Miracle of Giving
Celebrate the act of giving gifts, not just receiving. Even better, set aside one night for only giving tzedakah. Think of how your actions can impact others and provide a miracle to their lives. Encourage everyone to contribute and talk about which organizations you want to support. Which night will you set aside just for giving to others? How will your gift make the world a better place?